Often times when we look back at great memories of our respective sports team, the offensive plays get the most attention.However, I wanted to take a moment and recognize a Blackhawks dynasty-era highlight that everyone probably remembers but gets lost in the shuffle because it took place in the regular season and what led to the flashy goal was a high-end defensive play.
During a late-December game in 2013, the defending champion Blackhawks were taking on strugging Colorado at the UC. Chicago was already in control on the scoreboard, and there was a brief moment where it looked like the team perhaps took their foot off the gas. The always-reliable defensive pairing of Niklas Hjlamarsson and Johnny Oduya were involved in a slow change taking the ice, and lethal forward Matt Duchene was given a breakout pass and looked as though he would be sprung on an uncontested breakaway scoring opportunity against Antti Raanta.
Patrick Sharp – a forward mind you – recognized the slow change and put it into high gear on the backcheck. Sharp was able to catch one of the fastest players in the NHL, cleanly strip his fellow Canadian countryman, and have the poise and vision to find his teammate Jonathan Toews going back the other way.
As you can tell from the highlights. Toews did the rest and buried his second of the night.
This highlight stands out because it’s a microcosm of why the Blackhawks were so great: they did the little things across all 200 feet of this ice. Not only were the Blackhawks skilled, but they competed in all areas of the ice, won largely as a unit instead of relying completely on top-end skill, and were coached so well.
Sharp wasn’t a defenseman, yet he got back and completely bailed out the slow change on the blue line. He then found Toews, who showed off his skill, but as Eddie Olczyk astutely pointed out on the broadcast, Marian Hossa drove hard to the net and drew the attention of the defenseman (Erik Johnson). This gave Toews the avenue to display his skills.
An incredible hustle play by Sharp, high hockey IQ by Hossa, and elite patience by Toews led to a brilliant moment.